McAuliffe, Her­ring take crit­i­cism in up­roar over video

State GOP wants duo to give up funds do­nated by Planned Par­ent­hood

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY LAURA VOZZELLA laura.vozzella@wash­post.com Sand­hya Somashekhar con­trib­uted to this re­port.

rich­mond — Vir­ginia’s Repub­li­can Party chief on Fri­day called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark R. Her­ring to give away do­na­tions from Planned Par­ent­hood fol­low­ing the re­lease of a video show­ing one of the group’s ex­ec­u­tives ca­su­ally dis­cussing abor­tion tech­niques that pre­serve or­gans for re­search.

State GOP Chair­man John Whit­beck also pressed McAuliffe (D) to or­der an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Planned Par­ent­hood clin­ics in the state were per­form­ing out­lawed “par­tial-birth” abor­tions or us­ing other illegal meth­ods for keep­ing the or­gans in­tact.

“I know this will be a hard call for the gover­nor since he re­ceived nearly half a mil­lion dol­lars in cam­paign help from Planned Par­ent­hood, but these al­le­ga­tions rise above par­ti­san pol­i­tics,” Whit­beck said.

Brian Zuzenak, di­rec­tor of McAuliffe’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, dis­missed Whit­beck’s de­mand, say­ing it fit the Vir­ginia GOP’s pat­tern of “ex­treme at­tacks on a woman’s right to make her own health-care de­ci­sions.”

“Gover­nor McAuliffe ran on the prom­ise to be a brick wall against those at­tacks, and he is proud to be liv­ing up to that pledge to­day,” Zuzenak said in an e-mail.

Her­ring spokes­woman Emily Bolton said Repub­li­cans were “try­ing to score po­lit­i­cal points by at­tack­ing women’s health care.”

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said ear­lier that the gover­nor was “dis­turbed” by the video but did not think an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was nec­es­sary. Cianti Stewart-Reid, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Planned Par­ent­hood Ad­vo­cates of Vir­ginia, said its seven clin­ics do not col­lect fe­tal tis­sue for re­search.

Whit­beck’s de­mand came one day af­ter Repub­li­can lead­ers of Vir­ginia’s House of Del­e­gates called on McAuliffe to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A con­gres­sional com­mit­tee and the gover­nors of Ge­or­gia, In­di­ana, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the at­tor­ney gen­eral of Ohio, have or­dered in­quiries of their own.

Vir­ginia Repub­li­cans have shied away from di­vi­sive abor­tion pol­i­tics in re­cent years, hav­ing been burned badly in 2012 for sup­port­ing a bill that would have re­quired women to un­dergo vagi­nal ul­tra­sounds be­fore abor­tions. In ev­ery statewide elec­tion since, Democrats have ac­cused the GOP of wag­ing a “war on women” — and have won them all.

Given that the video has of­fended even some abor­tion rights ad­vo­cates, Repub­li­can lead­ers ap­pear to see an open­ing to talk up an is­sue that is pop­u­lar with the party base in a way that might not alien­ate swing vot­ers. They also see away to put pres­sure on McAuliffe, who made abor­tion rights a cen­tral theme of his 2013 cam­paign and re­ceived hefty fund­ing from Planned Par­ent­hood and like-minded groups.

Planned Par­ent­hood Ac­tion Fund, the group’s po­lit­i­cal arm, gave his cam­paign in-kind do­na­tions worth more than $490,000 for staffing, mail­ings and other ser­vices.

The group also do­nated just over $30,000 to Her­ring (D), most of that also in the form of in-kind ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the Vir­ginia Public Ac­cess Pro­ject, a non­par­ti­san tracker of money in pol­i­tics.

Whit­beck’s re­quest con­cerned not those in-kind do­na­tions, but the mon­e­tary ones that Planned Par­ent­hood’s Vir­ginia af­fil­i­ate made to McAuliffe’s and Her­ring’s inau­gu­ral funds, $5,000 to McAuliffe’s inau­gu­ral com­mit­tee and $1,250 to Her­ring’s. In­stead of call­ing on McAuliffe and Her­ring to re­turn the con­tri­bu­tions, he urged them to do­nate like amounts to a “char­ity not in­volved in the abor­tion and in­fan­ti­cide in­dus­try.”

An anti abor­tion group, the Cen­ter for Med­i­cal Progress, re­leased an un­der­cover video Tues­day fea­tur­ing Deb­o­rah Nu­ca­tola, Planned Par­ent­hood’s se­nior di­rec­tor of med­i­cal re­search. She is shown dis­cussing, over lunch, how doc­tors put the fe­tus in a breech po­si­tion and “crush” in cer­tain lo­ca­tions but not oth­ers to pre­serve the or­gans. She also dis­cusses dol­lar amounts as­so­ci­ated with the or­gans.

The sale of fe­tal tis­sue is illegal, but it can be do­nated with the woman’s per­mis­sion. Planned Par­ent­hood has said that it does not profit from those do­na­tions but that it some­times re­coups the cost of trans­port­ing the or­gans.

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions also pro­hibit any­one from al­ter­ing the tim­ing or method of an abor­tion for the sole pur­pose of pre­serv­ing tis­sue for re­search. Planned Par­ent­hood has not di­rectly re­sponded to ques­tions about whether the or­gan-pre­serv­ing tech­niques that Nu­ca­tola de­scribes in the video vi­o­late those reg­u­la­tions.

In 2003, Congress out­lawed an abor­tion pro­ce­dure called “in­tact di­la­tion and ex­trac­tion,” which in­volves partly de­liv­er­ing an in­tact fe­tus feet first, then pierc­ing and com­press­ing the skull. Op­po­nents re­fer to it as “par­tial-birth” abor­tion, and the Cen­ter for Med­i­cal Progress con­tends that is what Nu­ca­tola was de­scrib­ing when she talked about putting the fe­tus in the breech po­si­tion.

Asked di­rectly about the “par­tial-birth” al­le­ga­tions raised by the video, Eric Fer­rero, spokesman for Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ica, said: “As a high-qual­ity health-care provider, Planned Par­ent­hood fol­lows all fed­eral and state laws and reg­u­la­tions.”

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